'Perfect practice makes perfect'
MetaMetrics introduces Lexile Measure for English improvement
By Han Sang-hee
Learning English calls for many things: time, effort and the right material. But how do people know if the material is actually helping them improve?
Educational measurement and research organization MetaMetrics stumbled on this question 28 years ago, and eventually developed scientific measures to help students, teachers and parents improve reading and writing abilities and figure out what they really need to get better.
Now the organization seeks to knock on the door of Korea, one of the most intensive countries when it comes to English education.
“Our mission has always been being supportive of literacy worldwide,” Malbert Smith III, president of MetaMetrics, said during an interview, Monday.
Smith co-founded the company, which was initially funded through a series of grants by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, part of the National Institute of Health, with CEO A. Jackson Stenner in 1984.
Smith was in Korea with vice president Trilby Berger to discuss business deals with education companies and publishers, but Smith felt a connection with Korea even before inking any deals.
The two executives took a tour to some of the more popular tourist spots in Korea, including Seoul Tower and Gyeongbok Palace, and coincidently learned about the traditional three great sounds that can be heard from a household: the sound of a crying baby, the sound of reading and the sound of the women pressing clothes.
“(The sound of reading) resonated with me. It really gave me an endorphin rush,” Smith said.
The Lexile Measure from MetaMetrics is a criterion to measure the overall interpretation and comprehension of English text.
The measurement helps educators, librarians and families to select books, articles and other materials that provide the right level of challenge for readers’ skills and goals, and also monitors their growth in reading ability.
“They say that practice makes perfect but if you practice something inappropriately, that’s not going to help,” Smith said.
“The world does not suffer from a lack of tests. We need to give more actual information. What we attempted to do was connect the test scores to actual resources, books and material so when a student receives their test score, they can take that information and do something with it,” he added.
Ranking students based on their test scores is the easiest, and most common, way to evaluate them.
But MetaMertics seeks to go further and come up with a more effective way to enhance one’s reading and writing skills.
“If you get a book that is way too hard for you, you get frustrated and quit. If it’s way too easy for you, you’re reading but not being exposed to more vocabulary or syntax structure.
“If we can match up your reading ability to the difficulty of the book, then we can optimize and help accelerate reading growth and enhance the reading practice as opposed to throwing kids to just read something either too easy or too hard.
The Lexile Measure permits that match between the reader’s ability and the difficulty of the book,” Smith said.
The founder’s visit to Korea turned out to be worthwhile for both the organization and local students, as it inked a deal with one of Korea’s biggest Internet bookstores Interpark Books, Monday.
Through the partnership, some 50,000 books will use the Lexile Measure, offering readers an easier and more effective way to improve their English reading and writing.
Other applied programs include ETS TOEFL Junior and also a website called Engaging English (www.EngagingEnglish.com)
“Reading is something so fundamental. One of the nice things about the Lexile metric is that it allows you to see your growth over time and we want all the students to grow,” Smith said.
“If you just cram for an exam, if that kills your love of learning, that’s not going to help. We want to create lifelong learners over their life span not their school span.”